After 40 years of marriage, it’s reasonable to believe you know all there is to know about your spouse. You don’t blink an eye when seeing you walk outside with car keys in hand and he comments, “are you going somewhere?” Three possibilities exist: A. I’m going to bed B. What you see is a mirage C. I’m taking the car and going somewhere. I can’t stop the thoughts from coming, but I’ve trained myself not to share all of them with my husband and no doubt true for him as well. We are all guilty of asking questions that beg to be ignored. “Do you want a spanking, or do you want to go to bed?”
In any case, I don’t say anything because it would stir up dark energy I don’t wish for my spouse or me. It’s not like he grabbed me and said, “Hey, woman, where do you think you are going?” That’s a different situation and has nothing in common with an interaction of two equals. Instead, I recall my grandkids hopping around singing aloud from the movie, Frozen, “Let it be. Let it be”— and I let it be. I love my guy and own my irritation—so I deal with it. It’s not like we can’t anticipate their reaction. Sometimes Tim will say that I’m reading his mind and speaking words he was about to say. But there is a new game in town, Coronavirus, with new rules for marital harmony.
After the kids left home, I quit cooking. Tim was not surprised, not at all. For years leading up to the day, I would remind him that “no more cooking for me after the kids are gone.” Then I’d turn to my kids and remind them my days of nurturing them were ticking down. Jens, one of the male children, asked, “when did they start?” Not sure where this boy gets his meanness.
A good dinner is important to Tim. He disagrees that a piece of toast with peanut butter and a bowl of cereal constitutes a good dinner. But he agrees that after years of cooking, maybe it’s fair that he now does the cooking. So thanks to me for giving him this opportunity, he’s now quite a good cook.
In March of 2020, our marital harmony received a Corona jolt, an eight on the Virus Scale. Everyday normal took on a new shape and sound. Before Q Time, we both grocery shopped, but with Corona in town to protect my scarred lungs (TB), Tim does all the shopping. His meal planning includes making sure all ingredients are available, unlike someone he lives with who is calling neighbors, “Hey, do you have flour? I want to make some bread.” Privately, I opined that his way was excessive. It was like climbing to the top of Mount Everest when the view from Skydeck at the Willis Tower was fine enough. But an eight Virus Scale quake took his planning out of the earth’s atmosphere. Every food morsel in the house is now logged. His “planning the meals” took an ominous turn, but one Mrs. Hughes from Downton Abbey would appreciate. He puts my eight apples for the week on the top shelf.
“We are having a salad and a piece of toast for tonight’s dinner,” he informs. “I’m adding a lot of veggies, nuts, and dried cranberries.” It means that there is plenty of food, so no sneaking into future provisions. I don’t care much what we eat as long as I don’t leave the table with my stomach growling in protest, don’t leave yet! You need more food!
“Tim, why don’t we eat the leftovers from last night as a side dish?”
“No, to minimize trips to the grocery store, we are stretching the food, and yesterday’s leftovers are tomorrow’s dinner.”
“But I don’t think I’m eating enough calories to feel full,” I object. I’m reminded of Oliver Twist and more soup, please. Taking pity on me he suggests I have one spoonful of peanut butter. He speaks slowly pronouncing, one spoonful, to bring attention to the singular adjective “one” that precedes the noun spoonful.
When I suggest he buy cakes and other goodies for me, he says, “Are you sure you want me to do that?” It’s what I’ve asked him to say when I ask for sweets or am getting ready to order dessert at a restaurant, but that was before Corona time. Things have changed. I don’t know if I will live through this epidemic. I’m more of a mind to seize the moment. Think of those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart and didn’t live long enough to regret it.
I text the kids, “your dad is trying to starve me.” Chill runs through me as scenes from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane cross my mind. The kids text back. Don’t give dad a hard time, and mom, behave yourself. So they are in on it. There is no way out. When I see Julie, who lives in my building, I tell her what’s happening right above her. I ask her to keep an eye on me and if I start looking skinny and feeble for her to come to my rescue. Just can’t get Baby Jane out of my head. Determined to document what’s happening, something Baby Jane couldn’t do, I take out the scale to see how much weight I’ve lost in 18 days on the Coronvirus meal plan. Seriously, I don’t have to step on the bathroom scale to know I’ve lost weight, at least five pounds, but like your living will, it’s good to have things in writing. Five pounds. Right on the button. Except for the five pounds moved in the wrong direction. So, here we are. My husband, my five children, and the bathroom scale are conspiring against me.
Another big change is shower time. “Edith, what time are you getting in the shower?” I know why he is asking this. Having enough hot water for his shower is a top priority for Tim. But I don’t like to be asked. I want to know that I can take it any time I want throughout the day. Yes, often, it happens to be at his favorite shower time, but that’s not the point. Isolation doesn’t lend itself to making independent decisions. When I take a shower and which pajamas to wear each day are two of a few nuggets of delights. “Well, I’m planning to shower around five before I cook dinner,” Tim says.
“That’s fine,” the obedient wife says while thinking, maybe I could use that time to eat a second spoonful of peanut butter. Or does he weigh the jar?
Now that I’m the only woman he sees during the day, Tim is paying more attention to me. Just yesterday, he praised me for wearing a mask while out walking. He likes it so much he’s encouraging me to wear it all the time, or at least until the lights are off.
Quarantine is a bit like that time of the month, except it continues indefinitely. On the upside, when has there ever been a time when you must avoid the gym to stay healthy.